Full 2013 GMC Savana Cargo Review
What's New for 2013
For 2013, the GMC Savana Cargo van adds an optional navigation system, rearview camera and rear park assist.
For businesses in need of a spacious work vehicle, the 2013 GMC Savana Cargo will meet the most basic needs. Its biggest advantage in the small class of full-size cargo vans is wide selection of strong V8 engines. However, GMC's cargo van has been on sale in its current form since 1996, and among its more modern competitors in this class, it is quickly losing its edge.
One such rival is the similarly priced 2013 Nissan NV, which has two roof-height options for added space and capability, as well as roomier front seats. Another strong competitor, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, is more versatile and customizable than the Savana Cargo, and easier to drive on narrow, crowded streets. Smaller vans such as the Ford Transit Connect and the Nissan NV200 offer large cargo holds in smaller, more fuel-efficient packages and are an excellent alternative if you don't need to haul around heavy equipment. Meanwhile, the virtually identical Chevrolet Express and the Ford E-Series Econoline cargo vans are the most common alternatives to the Savana, though they don't provide any significant advantages.
The 2013 GMC Savana still has plenty of potential as a work van. Its V8 engines cope well with heavy loads, and the vans's considerable cargo space and available driver-side cargo doors should provide adequate functionality for most contractors. The GMC Savana and its Chevy Express twin are also quite a bit cheaper than the Sprinter. For all that, the Savana doesn't top our list, chiefly because its newer rivals provide more interior space and superior drivability.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 GMC Savana Cargo is a full-size van that's offered in two wheelbases and three load ratings. The standard-wheelbase model (135 inches) is available in a base 1500 version as well as heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 variants. The extended-wheelbase version (155 inches) is offered only on 2500 and 3500 models.
Standard equipment on the Savana Cargo includes 16-inch steel wheels, 60/40-split swing-out passenger-side doors, air-conditioning, vinyl upholstery and a trip computer.
Major options include 17-inch steel wheels, heated power mirrors, 60/40-split swing-out driver-side doors, a sliding passenger-side door, a variety of rear door and window configurations, a towing package, keyless entry, cloth upholstery, a six-way power driver seat, front passenger seat delete, cruise control, full power accessories, a tilt-only steering wheel, remote ignition, Bluetooth, OnStar emergency communications, a simple two-speaker AM/FM sound system and an upgraded system with a CD player, satellite radio and a USB/iPod interface. Rear parking sensors, a navigation system and a rearview camera are also available.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 GMC Savana Cargo van is offered with a choice of six engines, starting with the 4.3-liter V6, which produces 195 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque and comes standard on rear-wheel-drive 1500 models. EPA-estimated fuel economy estimates are 15 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined. A 5.3-liter V8 good for 310 hp and 334 lb-ft of torque is standard on all-wheel-drive 1500 models and is available as an option on rear-wheel-drive 1500 versions. Fuel economy with this engine and rear-wheel drive is 13/18/15.
The rear-drive-only 2500 and 3500 come standard with a 4.8-liter V8 that produces 280 hp and 296 lb-ft of torque. There are several optional engines. A gasoline-fueled 6.0-liter V8 puts out 324 hp and 373 lb-ft of torque. A version of the same 6.0-liter V8 runs on compressed natural gas (CNG) and produces 279 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque. Finally, a 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 is rated at 260 hp and a robust 525 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy estimates are not available for these heavy-duty vans, because the EPA doesn't rate vehicles heavier than 6,000 pounds.
The 4.3-liter V6, 4.8-liter V8 and 5.3-liter V8 come mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. The 6.0-liter V8 and 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 are coupled to a six-speed automatic.
The heavy-duty 3500 series has a maximum payload capacity of 4,490 pounds. Properly equipped 2500 and 3500 vans have a maximum towing capacity of close to 10,000 pounds, depending on the engine and wheelbase you choose.
All 2013 GMC Savana Cargo vans come fitted with antilock brakes, side curtain airbags and stability control as standard equipment. A rearview camera, rear parking sensors and OnStar emergency communications are available as options.
Interior Design and Special Features
The interior of the GMC Savana Cargo van is very basic. Such items as carpets, power windows and power locks are optional. As is often the case in traditional full-size vans, front-seat legroom is limited, as the packaging of the engine results in an extra-large dash and console between the driver and passenger.
As expected, interior room is impressive, with 237 cubic feet of space on the standard-wheelbase model (matching the Ford E-Series). The long-wheelbase Savana provides 284 cubic feet of space, approximately 10 more cubic feet than the long-wheelbase E-Series. However, the Savana Cargo doesn't come close to the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, which provides well over 500 cubic feet of space with its highest roof option. The high-roof options on the Sprinter and the NV also allow someone to stand and walk upright inside the vans, making them more practical for contractors who use their vehicles as mobile offices. Still, the Savana's optional driver-side swing-out cargo doors offer some extra practicality for owners who need quick access to equipment or tools.
Other than affordable pricing, the best reason to look at the 2013 GMC Savana Cargo van is its strong V8 engine lineup. The Sprinter might have a leg up on fuel mileage, but the Savana's available 6.6-liter diesel V8 has the highest torque rating in this class, and it's a good option for companies and contractors hauling a lot of heavy equipment. Compared with the Mercedes Sprinter and the Nissan NV, though, the Savana's ride and handling characteristics are pretty lackluster. It simply isn't as easy or comfortable to drive as the newer vans, and nothing short of a full redesign will remedy that.